Married couple guilty of fraud after longest criminal trial

A husband and wife have been found guilty of fraud after Scotland's longest ever criminal trial.

Edwin and Lorraine McLaren were convicted of fraud and money laundering. Picture: Contributed
Edwin and Lorraine McLaren were convicted of fraud and money laundering. Picture: Contributed

Edwin McLaren was yesterday found guilty at the High Court in Glasgow of ripping off desperate homeowners in a £1.6 million scam.

The case – which started in September 2015 – heard how a string of people from across Scotland lost ownership of their homes at the hands of callous McLaren.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

They had gone to the Bentley-driving 52 year-old for help after mainly being hit by money worries.

In many cases, he offered to purchase a share in a house in return for the homeowner getting a much needed cash boost.

McLaren was hailed as a “saviour” - but instead he ended up conning people out of their homes.

In a complex fraud, he convinced vulnerable people to sign documents which resulted in them no longer owning their properties. Houses were then sold on and McLaren went on to pocket the proceeds.

Victims got little, if any, of the cash promised, while McLaren lived in a £760,000 mansion in Kilmalcolm, Renfrewshire.

McLaren also enjoyed lavish trips to Dubai, his children went to private school – and his wife Lorraine was able to afford a £100,000 six carat diamond ring.

McLaren was finally snared when one victim went to police in 2012.

The conman – who denied the accusations - forced his victims to give evidence during a mammoth trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

McLaren – an ex-estate agent – had placed an advert in the national press offering to buy people’s homes.

Those who answered were either in significant debt, had poor health or had recently suffered a bereavement.

Some had previously tried banks for loans but had been knocked back due to their financial position.

It was then that they turned to McLaren for help.

The jury heard he presented himself as a “millionaire businessman” with hundreds of properties already to his name. But, he used aliases such as Adrian, AJ, Edmund or Dave Johnstone in his dealings with some of his victims.

Among the many victims was John Demspter, who went to McLaren in early 2010.

He wife had died of cancer and his daughter had also been diagnosed with the condition.

Mr Dempster wanted to pay off his debts and believed he was selling an 80 per cent share of his £120,000 house in Erskine, Renfrewshire. He was taken to a lawyers office – but he signed a document without his reading glasses on. Mr Dempster had unwittingly signed for the whole of his house to be handed over.

He told the court: “I trusted him. I thought he was the best friend I could ever have. He seemed to really care.”

McLaren was jailed after he was found guilty of 29 charges. Proceeds of crime proceedings have been started against McLaren. His wife Lorraine McLaren, 52, was convicted of being involved in the scam to the extent of £128,000 and one charge of mortgage fraud.